Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Brooks Launch 3-Subtle Changes Make a Big Difference

Review by Sam Winebaum, Editor Road Trail Run
For runners seeking a performance trainer with a conventional heel to toe drop, the Launch 3 makes two welcome changes from the Launch 2: a less constricting upper in the mid foot arch accomplished with thinner 3D printed overlays and a new forefoot rubber that is distinctly more energetic and  softer. On the minus side, the toe bumper while the same design is of a thicker material making the toe area feel a touch "pointier". The ride remains very similar: well supported, decently firm with a fine if narrow forefoot feel and a stable if somewhat "blocky" heel due to the 10mm drop.

Here is how Brooks describes the Launch 3's key features

Running Warehouse has the following stats for the Launch 3. 0.1oz lighter but all other stats remain the same as Launch 2.
Stack height: 27mm heel, 17mm forefoot, 10mm heel-toe offset
Weight: 9.8 oz/278grams (men’s size 9), 7.9 oz/224grams (women’s size 7)
MSRP: $100. Available January 2016

Upper and Fit
The Launch 3 fit me true to size with light socks. Wider feet may have issues with the toe box and the thicker toe bumper.
Launch 3 (left) Launch 2 (right)
The Launch 2 and 3 while on the same last have very different uppers, a very good thing. The upper overlays are mainly now 3D printed, a process with less waste and greater precision in width, pattern, and thickness than heat bonded overlays. Gone is the relatively heavy silver logo overlay and the wider overlays leading from the heel to the arch area. For me these changes translated it not only a more comfortable mid foot fit, less constraining under the arch in particular but also a smoother transition. 
Launch 3 (left) Launch 2 (right)
Launch 3 (left) Launch 2 (right)
 One can clearly see the thicker toe bumper of the Launch 3 in the photo above. The thin laces of the Launch 2 are replaced by round fat ones which provide a more secure yet also more comfortable wrap of the foot. The forefoot mesh of the Launch 3 has a touch more structure to it.
Launch 2 (left) Launch 3 (right)

The heel counter is slightly higher in the Launch 3. Overall heel fit is excellent with no need to lace lock.

Midsole and Outsole
No obvious changes to the midsole that I can see. Still Brooks BioMoGo DNA which for me feels best when there is less thicknesses of it as it is quite stiff. 
Launch 3 (top) Launch 3 (bottom)

The biggest difference between Launch 2 and Launch 3 is the forefoot feel. I put one of each version on and first walked around then ran. The forefoot landing is distinctly softer on Launch 3. Not mushy or unstable but just the right touch of give to smooth out the Launch 2's somewhat harsher feel up front. It's a different rubber compound of approximately the same thicknesses as on Launch 2 so clearly some magic stuff. Brooks calls this forefoot improvement "The Forefoot Energy Zone- delivering great responsiveness and springy toe off". Very true and more of what is claimed than Launch 2 but I wouldn't quite put the Launch in the same springy class as say Adios Boost. 

Launch 3 (left) Launch 2 (right)
Ride, Comparisons,Conclusions
The Launch 3 is a very decent performance trainer. We can't really say "lighter" performance trainer as at 9.8oz it is heavier than similar performance trainers such as the feather light Nike Lunar Tempo at 6.8 oz,adidas Boston Boost 5 at 8.5 oz or Altra Impulse at 8.6oz and it is just 0.2oz lighter than the adidas Energy Boost. I have to assume the weight comes from the density of the midsole, the considerable outsole coverage, and while 3D printed the beefy upper. 
The ride is in no way to firm or to soft, it's right in the middle. A bit stiff in the forefoot and blocky in the heel, they feel best for me at moderate tempo paces. Launch has a better cushioned if more blocky feeling heel than my Shoe of the Year, the Altra Impulse. The Launch's 27mm heel vs.17mm in the Impulse sure helps in that department, it has a well cushioned and stable heel. They are stiffer flexing up front than Impulse with its InnerFlex channels and thus not quite as silky smooth on transition. Taking the Launch 3 down to a 24-25mm heel would I think help smooth the ride and drop the weight.
The new upper sure helps the overall fit, feel, and ride when compared to the Launch 2. An upper that holds the foot to the platform but doesn't contribute to overall stiffness and feels smooth and not overly constrained under way is the essence of this improvement. I scratch my head a bit over the thicker toe bumper material which makes the 3 feel somewhat pointier and more constrained up front than the 2. No issues for me, but given the rest of the new upper holds the foot so well, and the last is overall quite narrow, I wonder why this change was made. 
The Brooks Launch 3 is for me a significant improvement over the Launch 2. Much more my kind of shoe than the somewhat ponderous Ghost with essentially the same stack. It is amazing that changes, some that can't even be "seen" such as the new forefoot rubber, make such a noticeable difference in ride and feel. Smoother running, with a more energetic and softer forefoot, and a better executed upper the Launch 3 does not radically change the Launch 2, it improves it. 

Score 4.65 out of 5
-0.15 for weight
-0.1 for somewhat blocky high heel
-0.1 for pointy toe and thick toe bumper.
I would score the Launch 2  4.5.

The Brooks Launch 3 was provided at no charge to Road Trail Run. The opinions herein are entirely those of the author.

Get the Brooks Launch 3 at our partner site Running Warehouse
Men's here
Women's here
Free 2 Day Shipping & Return Shipping     90 Day "No Sweat" Returns

The Brooks Launch 3 can also be purchased from Road Trail Run partner sites below. 


khadija said...

Great post! This is wonderful news.Thanks for sharing this blog. I did a search and found your blog and glowing review. It's been a big help! Thanx!

Kedar Pitre said...

Useful post Sam. Could you advise me on one aspect:
I am using a Launch 2 which fits perfectly. Now to
choose Launch 3 should I take a larger width - EE in
place of D which I am using presently, as you have
mentioned above that there is a pointy feeling to
the toe box.

kedar Pitre

sam winebaum said...

Hi Kedar,
A tricky question about the toe box. It is really not any narrower or shorter but the toe bumper on the 3 is more substantial, making things snugger at the very front. I am not sure I would go to a wide. I might try your true to size and a 1/2 size up to compare fit.
Hope this helps. Thanks for reading! Sam

Anonymous said...

How does this shoe work for heavy runners I currently wear the transcend 3
Thank you

Lena Jones said...

All I know is I'm in love with my Launch 2's. I bought two pair!! Best running shoe I've ever worn!!